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Strategic Plan, Public Health

Charging Forward into Health

In San Antonio, the dream is simple yet profound: a community where everyone thrives in robust health. While substantial progress has been made, the reality was far from this vision. 

Enter the San Antonio Forward (SA Forward) initiative — uniting San Antonio residents to build a community where health disparities vanish, and a shared thriving future becomes reality.

The Challenge

San Antonio was facing a stark reality with 38% of people burdened by debt and a strong association between poverty and poor health outcomes. With their community facing immense hardship – the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (SAMHD) knew it was time to take action. So they aimed to create a plan, not just addressing the existing hardships plighting their community, but improving their community’s vitality across all sectors of health.

This was no easy task. Past attempts to form this plan consumed years, mired in systems fixated on metrics, neglecting significant storytelling. All of SAMHD’s metrics were being tracked in spreadsheets. 

Amanda Manzello, Performance Improvement Manager, San Antonio, stated, “’s very aged…no narrative, no pictures, no nothing.”

Desperate for change, SAMHD sought a different approach, demanding more attention to “why it matters.” Enter mySidewalk.

Golareh Agha, Chief of Informatics, San Antonio, underscored the chaos:

The scatter - where everybody gets their data, how they process it…everybody is going to the convoluted sites, figuring out what to do, doing it slightly differently. It’s like 800 different flavors of ice cream is what’s happening.mySidewalk provides us a streamlined data source for the overwhelming majority of our data needs. Everyone now is talking apples to apples.
Golareh Agha

Chief of Informatics, San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department

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The Solution

In the battle for a healthier San Antonio, SAMHD identified six pivotal health priority areas: access to care, data and technology infrastructure, food insecurity and nutrition, health equity and social justice, mental health and community resilience, and violence prevention. The challenge was monumental—manually sifting through colossal datasets and crafting lengthy reports simply wasn't viable.

The key to the team's success? mySidewalk's data library. Now armored with an easily-searchable, expansive data library, SAMHD swiftly pinpointed crucial metrics for each focus area, illuminating disparities.

“For us, it streamlined the methodology. It’s a harmonized tool,” Agha continued. “We’re not using 17 different methodologies to map something or use it in a table. This platform for us - a data library and a built-in tool for manipulating and deriving insights from that tool has allowed us to become a super user.”

For example, SAMHD was able to showcase a powerful example of the racial inequities persisting in unemployment and education. For them, this underscored the importance of being able to break data down by race to identify, and eventually dismantle, inequities.

San Antonio_Unemployment

But it wasn't just data they gained; it was a partnership with mySidewalk —an ensemble of data storytellers and subject matter experts collaborating to achieve the shared vision of a healthy community. 

The constant evolution of this tool doesn't just document change; it became San Antonio’s North Star, pointing the way to a healthier, fairer future—a journey that sparked a sense of purpose within the team.

About San Antonio Metropolitan Health District

On a mission to prevent illness, promote healthy behaviors, and protect against health hazards through education, collaboration and key services, the San Antonio Metro Health is innovating community health outcomes with data.

Visit their website →

The Outcomes

Save Time & Money
Save Time Wrangling Data
Select over 50 different indicators, and investigate how each one impacts their community
Find Better Insights
Find Better Insights
Visualize each of them in a way that is aligned with best practices established by data scientists on the mySidewalk team
Inform Stakeholders & Partners
Create an interactive solution allowing the public to select the topics they are interested in, save the data to investigate further on their own, and understand the wellness status of their specific community.
Make-Data Driven Impact
Make Data-Driven Impact
Pull out key findings about SAMHD’s focus areas which enabled the establishment of goals and implementation plans to address health inequities in their community

Taking it Further

With a community- and data-driven strategic plan in place, SAMHD is able to seek funding to address critical health inequities. The Healthy Start grant, offered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awards up to 1.1M dollars per individual applicant. The window to apply for this grant is small, but with mySidewalk, gathering the data was easier than ever.

Tina Lopez, the Data Modernization Manager states, “They wanted 40 plus different pieces of data by zip code and for the county—at least 20 of them were things that I could get out of mySidewalk. It was fantastic that I was able to do that.”

Golareh emphasizes this point, “We’re talking about this tool allowing us to meet grant deadlines and securing grant dollars in a very competitive and tight environment.” 

mySidewalk allowed SAMHD to create powerful data stories that have impacted their communities for the better in a very short amount of time.

Tina underscores this point, “Everything's right there. This is easily a platform that can be used by any city, any entity; you don’t have to have any specialized training."

SAMHD and mySidewalk share many common goals, but most importantly, we want to be the catalyst for positive change. And the creation of the SA Forward dashboard is a great example of how mySidewalk can assist fellow change-makers.